Yes, Yellowstone is our nations first national park having been established in 1872, and it is also one of the largest parks in the contiguous US. It contains more than 2 million acres of geysers, beautiful blue lakes, waterfalls and vistas that are larger than life. The lowest elevation in the park is at Reese Creek (5,282) and the highest elevation is at Eagle Peak's summit (11,358).
As stunning as this park is it also is a place of extremes, the weather can change in a heartbeat, the altitude can be (and was) an issue and one must be always concerned with dehydration even in the cooler weather. The wild life is beautiful, and wild, many times the animals are LARGE and can be dangerous.
Man and I arrived in West Yellowstone on June 20, 2011 and headed right for the park as soon as we were set up in the campground. We made a quick stop at the Visitors Center in West Yellowstone. This was one of the few times that the volunteers and staff at any of the many parks and museums we visited that we had a less than wonderful experience with a staff member. Not that he was snarly, he just did not care, he was so bored with his duties (or he was very tired). We left with our maps and brochures, but, not the human feedback we had grown to appreciate so much. No matter, Yellowstone and the wildlife did not disappoint, within minutes of entering the park we happened upon, just strolling alongside the road:
We were thrilled to see our first bison, up close. Snicker, by the end of our week here, we had seen our fill.
We drove in along the Madison River which is just one of the many places in the park you will see a lot of fly fishing going on:
Below: Gibbons Falls:
Below: Beryl Spring, our first experience with a hot spring, a large superheated pool, it can boil up to a height of 4 feet, it is one of the "hottest" in Yellowstone, averaging 196 °F.
Below, Beryl Springs, a closer view of the boiling water:
Below one of the many "pots" at the area called Artists Paintpots. There is a boardwalk through this small area of thermal pools. The earth's crust is thin here, and visitors have been known to break through that thin crust and end up with burns and injuries, just another reminder how dangerous and fascinating the park can be.
Below, look at the great color, another spot at the Artists Paintpots.
Below, looking deep into one of the small pools, that smaller circle (totally covered by water) goes deep into the earth, just how far is your guess, I have not a clue.
We would end our first visit to the park at the Norris Geyser Basin area. This area is one of the hottest in Yellowstone. There is a small booklet prepared just for the Norris Geyser Basin, it is chuck full of facts and explanations of the colors, the formations. In the first paragraph it says . . .
"most dynamic of Yellowstone's hydrothermal areas. Many hot springs and fumaroles have temperatures above the boiling point (200 degrees F) here. Water fluctuations and seismic activity often change features."
One of the first things you notice in the areas of the geyers and pools is the smell. The day Man and I visited, it was, mmm, strong, well, at least to us. We viewed many visitors walking all the way around the boardwalks, among the steam and pools and, sighhh, the smell. Let's just say that Man and I looked from afar and then, well, left.
Below: a view of the Porcelain basin:
More quotes from the booklet on Norris Geyser Basin:
"All of Yellowstone's hydrothermal areas are fueled by magma (partially molten rock) beneath this park. This magma heats water percolating down from the surface along fractures and faults. This superheated water rises back toward the surface, collecting into larger channels that serve as the "plumbing" for each hydrothermal feature."
(Have to say, for a flatlands kinda gal, walking around in these areas watching the steam rise, the water boil, the smell, thinking that I am just over an area of molten rock was just a wee bit unnerving. Add in the words, 'seismic activity' and well, it becomes a lot unnerving.)
Not far, from the Porcelain Basin, and accessible from the same parking area is the Back Basin, which also has a trail loop. Some of this loop is improved and there is some boardwalk, but there are also sections that are steep, with a lot of stairs and possibly uneven ground.
At the Back Basin you will find Emerald Spring. The color comes from the water reflecting blue wavelengths of sunlight in combination with yellow from the sulfur-coated pool, the pool is about 27 foot deep and the temperature of the water is near the boiling point.
From the Emerald Spring Man and I trompsed part of the way to the Steamboat Geyser, this was one of those portions of the trail that was rough and had a lot of stairs. This geyser routinely spouts steam and water about 10 to 40 feet in the air, it is considered the world's tallest active geyser. Major eruptions of the Steamboat Geyser are unpredictable and may be days, months or even years apart, when they happen the water can go well over 300 feet in the air. We missed a 300 foot display, but, it was spouting away while we were there, I have photos that show shorter and taller spouts of water. Below, the water is to the right of the steam. It really sounded like a steamboat, with loud puffs of sound.
After watching the Steamboat Geyser for a few minutes Man and I turned and retreated, we had a bit of a climb out, the odor and the altitude and the long day were taking their toll, it was time to head for Tana and a good nights rest. We have HUGE plans for the next day, we are going to need all the rest we can get.
*Thanks to the National Parks Service and the Yellowstone Association for the great booklets.